By Larry Stephens
Two years ago I wrote, “Dave Adkins is a bluegrass and country singer. This new CD, while aimed at the bluegrass market, has some strong country numbers in it.” Let me say it again.
Your opinion of countrygrass will color your perspective of this CD. To me, it’s undeniably bluegrass: the banjo of Curtis Bumgarner on eleven of the tracks tells that story. He plays a hard–driving banjo, throwing in some trick rolls, an influence on every track. But a number of the songs have a distinct country sound. Adkins sings both country and bluegrass well but he’s not a crooner like Jim Reeves; there’s too much gravel in his voice for that.
You may remember John Michael Montgomery’s “Sold” from 1995. Adkins delivers with gusto with the banjo his constant companion. The harmony vocals — Aaron Ramsey singing baritone and Jeff Partin singing tenor — are good but a bit understated. A great country song is “It’s Not Over (Til I Get Over You),” co–written by Tom T Hall. Tim Crouch does outstanding, bluesy fiddle work on this track. Listening to Adkins sing this number I’m reminded of Travis Tritt. Listening to a great tearjerker, “Angel Song,” I’m hearing Alabama. This tells the story of a man’s loved one who has pased away and he’s talking to her in heaven. It’s classic country music with a bluegrass twist.
There’s no shortage of bluegrass. “Emmaline” is set in coal country, cheating hearts, the big wreck, pure bluegrass. “Russell Fork River” was co–written by Adkins, a story of a young woman and a watery grave and the man who pays the ultimate price, it has a great fiddle/guitar kick. Ramsey, who plays mandolin on all tracks, plays guitar here. Tony Wray plays on all the other tracks and plays banjo on “Change Her Mind,” a country song about lost love and the hope to turn things around. The instrumentalists are all first class with Partin holding it together on bass. Adkins also contributed to “Turn and Burn,” a truck driving song that tells the story of the hectic life on the road. The prize for best title goes to “Foolosophy,” one of those words that is so apt and you wish you had thought of it. Larry Cordle and Chris Stapleton wrote this one and it fits easily in the country mold.
Great writing and arrangements, picking and singing. It’s a winner in my book.